Rugby Injuries Q&A

To help answer some of the most common questions about rugby injuries, we asked General Practitioner, Dr Ralph Mitchell, and Senior Physiotherapist, Gemma Skudder, all about the most common injuries, how to prevent them and when to seek advice.

Ralph Mitchell
At present, concussion is our most common injury causing 25% of all match injuries. This brain injury has attracted a lot of media spotlight over the last few years. It’s where a player sustains a blow (usually) to the head which causes temporary impairment of neurological function which resolves over time. This particular statistic sounds high but is in part due to better self-recognition of the condition from players, and also improved pitch side assessment tools such as the Head Injury Assessment (HIA). Combining video technology from the TV feed with a 10 minute period in the medical room, the doctor is granted the time to assess for any neurological signs or symptoms that might suggest concussion and can diagnose the condition more effectively.


Gemma Skudder
Injuries in rugby vary depending on the player’s age and gender. Women tend to have more ankle, foot and knee injuries and gentleman are more likely to have knee and upper body injuries. The trends in injuries change as the game evolves and it also depends on what level the team plays at.

Ralph Mitchell
Rugby is an increasingly physical game with player weights and speeds on the rise. As a result, collisions are getting bigger and the potential of serious injury increasing. However, within the professional game there is a large body of work dedicated to injury prevention. Physiotherapy and strength and conditioning staff may work with a player to correct any underlying biomechanic weaknesses which may contribute to injury. There is also research which suggests that strengthening the neck can reduce the risk of concussion1.


Gemma Skudder
The RFU (Rugby Football Union) has published a study on injury prevention2. The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine by the University of Bath and England Rugby, showed a significant impact in reducing rates both for concussion and lower limb injuries by performing a simple, dynamic 20-minute exercise programme before training and pre-match. This exercise programme has the potential to dramatically reduce injuries in rugby by 60%.

Ralph Mitchell
This depends on the injury. For a serious injury hospital care is essential, but for simple soft tissue bruising the age old treatment of RICE (rest ice compression elevation) is still as good as ever. This method helps to reduce swelling and pain. However, if this isn’t beneficial then appropriate medical/physiotherapy advice should be sought.


Gemma Skudder

Depending on the injury, we use a variety of up-to-date, evidence based practice modalities including shockwave, hydrotherapy, manual therapy, acupuncture and strengthening/conditioning. I'm an advocate of identifying and treating the underlying issue, as well as the player's symptoms.

Ralph Mitchell

As soon as possible or necessary. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can lead to shorter recovery times as well as a reduction in risk of long-term injury.


Gemma Skudder

I always encourage the players we look after to be responsible about their injuries, as soon as we identify an issue we begin to work on it to try and resolve it as soon as possible. It’s best to seek advice and the sooner the better, before it becomes a long term issue.

Ralph Mitchell

I’ve been involved in rugby in some shape or form since I was a child when I played mini rugby. I played at school, but an injury forced me to take up refereeing. I was fortunate enough to referee up to national level in England and refereed games in the USA, South Africa and New Zealand. In my later years I’ve worked as a team doctor for Coventry RFC, Worcester Warriors RFC and now Wasps RFC. I’m also fortunate enough to be the team doctor for England Counties U20s for the last two years. Rugby will always be a huge part of my life and despite the injuries it has caused me I still feel it’s the best sport in the world!


Gemma Skudder
I'm a huge rugby fan. I’ve never played due to dislocating shoulders, however I became involved around four years ago when I was looking for a new challenge after working in climbing and football. I started working at my local club and now I also work with the RFU as a Locum Physio with the Women's Pathway. I also worked with the Ladies team in the lead up to the 2017 Rugby World Cup.

I can't imagine doing anything different now, I really enjoy working with a team and the variety and challenges the job brings. It's a lot of fun and I would really encourage people to go and watch a game at any level, but especially the England Women's Rugby Team.

Rugby injuries - getting ready for the scrum

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Sources
1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5117042/
2http://bmjopensem.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000043